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PROPOSED HOUSE BUDGETS FUND THE HOUSING TRUST FUND, RESTORE THE HOUSING AND ESSENTIAL NEEDS PROGRAM
The Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance, applauded the House's budgets for providing $100 million for the Housing Trust Fund and for fully restoring the Housing and Essential Needs Program, which had been eliminated entirely in Governor Gregoire's proposed budget.
The House yesterday released supplemental operating and capital budget proposals. The budgets, which includes many harsh cuts to important public services, also include needed investments in the Housing Trust Fund and the Housing and Essential Needs program.
"In a state where there are only 28 rental homes both affordable and available for every 100 renter householders considered extremely low income, it is clear that Washington does not have an adequate supply of affordable, available rental housing," said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. "Investments in the Housing Trust Fund not only address market shortages by increasing the supply of affordable housing, they also create jobs and revitalize local economies. This is exactly the kind of spending our budget needs to prioritize in order to turn Washington's economy around.
Since 1989, the Housing Trust Fund has successfully built, rehabilitated, and preserved more than 36,000 healthy and affordable homes across Washington State. The $100 million investment included in the proposed budget is expected to leverage an additional $500 million in non-state funds and would result in 2,500 units of affordable housing built, rehabilitated, or preserved as well as 3,050 jobs immediately and an additional 800 new jobs in subsequent years after the homes are occupied.
The budgets also included a full restoration of the Housing and Essential Needs program, which had been eliminated in the Governor's budget proposal. The Housing and Essential Needs program is a critical piece of Washington's safety-net that provides emergency rent & utility assistance to help ensure that temporary disabilities don't force people into homelessness. In Washington State, where 13.4% of people are living in poverty, and 132,000 extremely low-income people spend more than half of their income for rent, programs like the Housing and Essential Needs Program are vital for keeping people safe and off the streets.
However, the Housing Alliance was disappointed in other cuts that will increase difficulties for low-income families, as well as a decision to not invest some of the under-expenditures in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) grants back into the program. "TANF and WCCC didn't have lower expenditures because the need has been reduced, but rather because the programs have been cut so much they are less effective," said June Robinson, Executive Director of the Housing Consortium of Snohomish County and Housing Alliance Board Member. "These programs help people stay on their feet so they don't need more assistance down the line. When low income individuals lose their job and become homeless because they can't afford child care, that not only causes real pain for families, but it's more expensive for the state in the long run as well."
Advocates now look to the Senate as the budget process continues, hoping that lawmakers will follow the House and invest in affordable housing and critical safety net programs. The Housing Alliance hopes that legislators will choose to explore increasing revenues by ending unnecessary tax exemptions for corporations or through long-term reforms like a capital gains tax as an alternative to further cuts to public services.
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance works to ensure that all Washington residents have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, and affordable homes in thriving communities. We do this through advocacy, education and organizing. Our organizational members and individual supporters come from every community in Washington State.